Someone Else's Shoes


bf_cassandra_icon.gif elisabeth_icon.gif

Scene Title Someone Else's Shoes
Synopsis Cassandra thought she understood a little of what Liz had gone through. Until she was the one in the same spot.
Date March 3, 2019

Raytech Corporate Housing

In the time since arriving in New York, Cassandra tried her best to fit in and was doing fairly well. Large cities have a way of anonymizing people, since faces blend into a crowd much easier when there’s a group to blend into that’s larger than the 150 or so people a person deals with on a day-to-day basis. She had an apartment to call her very own, a job at RayTech that allowed her to use her skills as a researcher for good instead of nebulous evil, and she was starting to reach out to others in the community, trying to build ties where there were none before. The young intern Squeaks, for instance, or the few people she worked with in Research at RayTech had started to learn more about Cassandra, but there seemed to be something else.

It was about ten in the morning when Cassandra knocked on the apartment at RayTech that Liz and Aurora called home. She made sure to stay in her office until she was sure Rory was out to school or at least awake. Sleep was a precious thing in the trials that they all endured and interrupting such a thing was an inexcusable offense that could very rarely be forgiven. With her were peace offerings - a box of fresh donuts and a thermos of coffee from a little stall in the marketplace that seemed to be the best source for such things in the city. Under her arm was a manilla folder with a few papers sticking out from the fold.

Someone’s been researching something, it seems.

When the door opens, Elisabeth looks relaxed. It's been a long time coming, and she's still far more watchful even than the fugitive that Cassandra first met. But there was a long time where life was peaceful for them all in Cassie's world, and Elisabeth seems to slowly be unwinding. "Hey there," she greets with a smile. "Come on in."

Gesturing the younger woman into the apartment, Liz closes the door and locks it up. "How you doing today?" She goes to get cups — coffee and donuts? Sure thing!

It’s a marked change from the on-edge that was required to survive in the Flood and the Wasteland. It’s amazing that they didn’t die from a stroke or stress during all that went on, so the relative quiet of New York is welcomed after all of that. Cassandra’s dressed for the weather in a comfortable long-sleeved shirt and pants. She’s still rocking the hiking boots, though. Fashion that helps you survive not something you easily give up when it’s something worn for more than a year.

“Great to see you.” Cassandra says as she steps into the apartment, standing aside as the door is closed and locked behind her and making her way to the chair in the living area that Aurora specified as ‘story chair.’ The donuts and coffee are set down and she sits down too, waiting patiently for Liz to get back with the cups and, when she does, Cassandra fills them both with just enough coffee to get them both going. “Sleeping better?”

"Some, yeah," Elisabeth replies, settling in to the couch and picking up the coffee that's offered. It's something to be savored still. "There've even been a couple nights I slept the whole night through," she admits with a vaguely surprised air. It's not been the most common thing for her, even before the Wasteland.

"I'm slowly reestablishing contact with old friends." Liz's smile is suddenly brilliant. "Felix came by. He'll meet Aura soon. I haven't told her yet that I found him."

“That’s good you’re sleeping more. I’m trying, but it’s taking some getting used to the noise. It was what kept me up the most the first few days back here in the city. I was so used to silence…and now we’re in a city. Not the same city we came from, but still…a hundred times more people doing a hundred times more things.” Cassandra sips at her drink, savoring the hit of caffeine and the taste and smell of real brewed coffee, a rarity to be shared.

Cassandra sits quietly as Elisabeth talks about re-establishing old contacts, nodding her head in assent. The thought of Felix experiencing Aurora again gets her smiling. “I bet I’ll be able to hear her squeal of delight from my apartment. She’s so lucky she gets to meet him again.” she blows out a breath, claiming a donut and taking a bite. “I’ve been trying to make a few ties to the community, here and there. It’s like jumping into a pool that you can’t see the bottom of, for me. I’ve been in New York for so many years, and now it’s like I’ve never been.”

"He couldn't have handled it all at once," Elisabeth tell her quietly. "He's…" A look crosses her face and she chooses her words thoughtfully. "He's a little fragile," is what she finally settles on. "He took a head injury that caused a lot of damage." She doesn't elaborate. Cassandra will see for herself eventually.

Elisabeth's tone is matter-of-fact, and she sips the coffee. "The noise has actually made it a little easier for me — if there's noise, there's no danger." And the two nights she slept all the way through, she wasn't alone, which helped her sense of being safe. Her blue eyes flicker to the folder and she asks, "You wanna tell me about it?" Because she knows Cass well enough to know the lead-in to something the other woman needs to bounce off her.

Cassandra’s head tilts to look at the manilla folder, a soft sigh escaping. She leans over to pluck it from where it sits on the table, opening it up to look at the contents, papers shuffling as she does. “I know we weren’t supposed to look into ourselves. The ones from here.” She glances over the edge of the folder to Liz’s eyes, holding her gaze for a second before she glances down again. “I knew the me from here worked with SESA - a few agents seemed to recognize me at a diner, and let me tell you that me not knowing them did not go over well, but it wasn’t just them. People in the market seemed to know who I…she was. Thanking me for helping them find closure after someone in their family went missing or died. I found this.” A business card is placed on the table, a phone number and Cassandra’s first name printed there in small, neat letters, promising help finding the past. “And then I found this…”

A single newspaper clipping is placed alongside the card. An article from the Safe Zone Siren dated January 14th - a little after the travellers arrived. The article’s title, SESA Agent Found Dead, is striking, but the yellow highlighted name, Agent Cassandra Baumann, is what she taps. “I…she’s dead, Lizzie. I’m a ghost to some people.”

Picking up the papers, Elisabeth skims to article while Cass talks. She pulls in a slow breath and her lips twist in mild annoyance. "You know… if they want you to be able to keep a low fucking profile, certain things might actually be prudent for you to know. Like, oh, I don't know, the fact that your analog in this world was one of their own and that she was based in New York so that maybe you don't go there?" Rolling her eyes, Elisabeth sounds a bit disgusted. "For fuck's sake."

Setting the page down, the audiokinetic drags her hand down the side of her face, still shaking her head.

"I'm sorry, Cass… that you had to find that out like that and … for what happened to her." Elisabeth watches with concern in her blue eyes. Of all people, she knows what it is to learn that your alternate self has been murdered. "Are you okay?"

“Yeah. The ball got dropped there for sure.” she leans forward to pull a second donut out of the box, studying it for a second before taking a bite. “If it helps, I don’t blame Richard for it. He was in quarantine just as long as we were, so there’s no way he could have known. The rest of the SESA people, though…” Cassandra shrugs her shoulder, her head tilting to the side as she does. “The cynical part of me thinks that they should have said something, but the realistic part of me thinks that there was probably a gag order of some kind on them to even get sent out to catch us. Would have been nice to know, though, before showing up in her metaphorical backyard.”

As for whether or not she’s okay, Cassandra is silent, sipping her coffee and making the lovely sugar-coated donut disappear in about five bites. “I’m as okay as I can be, I guess.” She finally says. “Unlike Cassandra Baumann, I’m alive and there’s no chance of running into myself like we were worried about. The face-stealing Company Evolved story is definitely going to need a little tinkering, though. If I’m going to find out who murdered her.”

"I think you should just go with the unauthorized Institute clone story. If anyone asks why you didn't say so in the first place, just tell them you're not supposed to really talk about it — you're trying to build a new life. It's… not exactly even a lie." Elisabeth's brain is obviously in crisis-management mode. "If you're planning on nosing into who murdered her, the clone idea also makes a hell of a lot of sense anyway — it would explain your interest in her murder and your power being the same."

She pauses, though, and watches Cassie closely. "You were there… you were a part of all of it when Samson Gray killed the Liz of your world. There were things about knowing that she was killed that I didn't expect," she acknowledges softly. "The sense of losing something that I didn't even know I had. The utter terror that I might be next. The guilt that she was actually killed because of me was pretty overwhelming, something you don't have here… but I could see where you'd feel a kind of guilt because you also don't want to take her place or replace her. Make sure you keep talking to the therapists, okay? Some days…. it's really hard to cope with it all."

Liz has been there. She actually gets it. "There are enough people in SESA who are old contacts or friends of mine that we can perhaps ask for help on it… or at least be kept in the loop." The moment of hesitation is brief and she opts to come clean. "Ben Ryans has a vested interest in this case. I'll take you to him if you want."

It was that scene that brought Cassandra’s power to the forefront, letting her know exactly how valuable and powerful the ability to look into the past could be. It also showed Elisabeth exactly what Cassie could and couldn't do, up to and including erasing her own memories.

“I can't not look into it. I mean…she was helping people. Bringing closure to families who lost loved ones in the war. Solving crimes. Not…”. Cassandra sighs. “Not helping suss out the workings of a machine to punch through dimensions to different superstrings.”

Her work with Pinehearst is something that Cassandra has had pride in, but after her journeys, could she be feeling a little ashamed of what she's done, and what she's had to do to just get here? It seems so. A very catholic way to look at things. “Cassandra deserves closure. Her parents deserve closure.” She wipes her hands on her pants, little flakes of sugar dusting the floor. “It's the right thing to do.”

She sighs and nods her head. “Unauthorized Institute Clone Cassandra. Got it. But…”. She looks up. “Who is Ben Ryans?”

Elisabeth smiles faintly. "You probably didn't meet him in the flooded world. Captain Ryans is the one who taught me what he could about water navigation and combat on boats in the short amount of time we had. Here… he's one of the only men I would follow into Hell." There's a subtle difference to the way she says it — she'd go into Hell for certain people, but there are few she'd follow as a leader. "And he knew Cassandra Baumann in this world. She helped him regain memories that were taken, like mine were. Like my father's were."

She purses her lips. "Maybe you should consider going to work for him. I… don't know if it's the right thing to do, but it can't hurt to ask about it. Might be something to run past our SESA liaison."

There were so many people in the flooded world, Cassandra remembering one out of the hundreds they ran into would be difficult, if not impossible. Captain Ryans, though. That name rings a bell as one of the captains who helped them get to the Ark on his rusty Coast Guard Patrol Boat, but since she was with Woods, she never got a chance to really know the man. Still, if Liz thinks so highly of him, here, there has to be something to it. After all, Liz doesn’t put that kind of reverence on someone lightly. And Cassandra from here helped him, too.

She bobs her head lightly in assent. “I’d like to talk to him. Maybe he could pull a string or something and get ‘Cassandra’s clone’ some time with the evidence so we could find out what happened to the one from here. It’d get me a little face time with people who could use my ability for good and might…” She sighs, throwing her hands up. “I don’t know, might do some good for someone, somewhere.” And then Cassandra goes quiet.

When she speaks, it’s with a muffled sniffle, her head down, her hand darting up to swab at her eyes. “I feel like I’m an intruder, Liz. I’m not supposed to be here, at all. This world is yours. You’re supposed to be here - I just tagged along because the choice was either that or try to dodge bullets.” Which, technically, she’s been quite good at, but that’s neither here nor there. “Cassandra, here, died doing her job. Me? The universe, time, space, and whatever fates pulled my strings decided to drop me here. Why, though? What am I supposed to do?”

Therapists were supposed to talk with the travellers about stuff like this. Apparently Cassandra’s skipped that part or didn’t do their due diligence.

Or, and Elisabeth would more or less bet the farm on this idea because she has lived it for a long time now, it's just a hell of a lot harder to adjust than anyone realizes. She moves, leaving her coffee over on the table and sitting next to Cassie to wrap her arm around the girl. "When you first met me," she says softly, "those are all the things I was struggling with that I couldn't tell you about. You knew that I was having a hard time…. And you were amazing when it came to being there. I never wanted you to feel these things. I'm sorry you are." She sighs heavily and rests her head sideways on top of the younger woman's.

"I knew I shouldn't… but these feelings were why I went looking for Felix in your world. He wasn't my Felix. But he was Felix and I needed him in my life. He kept me … balanced… in ways that I can't explain. Even when he lost his Liz, he never confused the two of us. It was… like knowing a set of twins — we were able to lean on one another without making it confusing. Maybe… even though it's against the rules… maybe you need to figure out who your Felix is. You need… an anchor. The therapists help. A lot. But it never quite goes away. I wish I could tell you it did."

She pauses and admits softly, "Even now, a part of me is still struggling with that. Because this is my world… but I only really feel that in certain places."

With a shuddering sob, Cassandra leans into Elisabeth as she sits next to her, turning to bury her face in the other woman’s shoulder, just letting the tears come. It’s been hard - Elisabeth certainly knows that - to adjust, but at least Cassandra was able to do it with a support system in place and a huge cash infusion from the US Government. Elisabeth had none of that. Still, it’s harder than she thought, trying to start over again. It’s like the first day of school, standing up in class to tell about what you did that summer with new faces staring up at you that you never knew before, except here she’s the doppelganger for the girl that moved away to a new school last year.

It’s extremely difficult.

Still, after a second the tears slow and Cassandra lets out a muffled chuckle, followed by a sniffle. “Find my anchor? I could tell you exactly /who/ that would be, if I knew. My first thought would be my grandmother or parents, but you know exactly how that would go over with the SESA handlers if I tried to even think about contacting them.” She doesn’t need to elaborate, of course, but it wouldn’t go over well for any of the people involved at all if she tried. “I think it’s…going to just have to be you and Rory, Liz. I’ve asked so much of you two already, that I feel ashamed for wanting to ask even more. I need familial ties, Liz. You know that. It’s what I built over years with you and Rory and Ygraine and even Felix when he arrived on the scene. I…” she hiccups. “I need family, Liz, and I don’t know where to go but here.”

"We are still family, Cassie," Elisabeth soothes softly. "Listen… they've said you cannot pretend to take over the other Cassandra's life. And you can't tell them where you come from, you have to give them the party line — given the fact that the Institute's bullshit made news a few years ago, you have room here. You can seek out your family too. I chose not to in your world because I couldn't figure out a way to talk to my father without … making him a target and maybe causing him to feel bad. His daughter was alive and well for at least part of that time and then afterward I couldn't decide whether it would be better or worse for him to see me, but… I used to check on him. Sometimes when the loneliness got too bad. And especially after she was killed, I used to check on him." She bites her lip.

"I don't know if it's easier or harder to cut those ties completely. But I know how hard it is to choose to do that. And the family here has already suffered through losing her — you might decide it's better not to make contact because maybe that's worse for them. There's no way to know what their reaction will be. I mean… my dad took my mom to the cabin, right? But I can promise you that it's not going to be as simple as 'oh look, my wife has suddenly come back to life' and just picking up where they left off or anything, you know? Only you really can make that choice. But we're not going anywhere. I'm here no matter what."

She hugs Cassandra tightly, wishing there was a way to make this easier.

This was so much easier when it was Cassandra on the other side of this divide, on the outside looking in. She knew that Elisabeth had gone through a lot of trouble before she had met Cassandra, all those years ago in the park in a reality that no longer exists, but she had no idea how hard it was, how difficult it was to see, how guilty she felt by just surviving while her counterpart lay dead in the ground, a hero in the eyes of the city and the law enforcement agency she worked with. Finally she shakes her head, leaning into Elisabeth lightly, the tears drying up. “…no. I can’t do that to them. They’ve already buried their daughter here. If I show up with a story about being a clone of the original, with the same memories and powers, that would just be like parading their dead daughter in front of them. They’ve already said goodbye. They’ve already started to heal and me showing up would just rip those wounds open again. Sometimes the past should be left the past, no matter how much you want it to be the present again.”

“I might check on them, from time to time. Just to see how things are going. I might even reach out to my Grandmother. At least to tell her that I love her. She’d just see me as a spirit, come to finish something that needed to be done. Hell…even a letter might work. I’d never know if they got it, but I’d know that it was out there, with the feelings I have for them. Letting them know that I never stopped being their little girl.” The words just pour out of Cassandra, her mouth going a mile a minute the last few trailing off as she clasps her hands together, forcing herself to stop talking about this.

“I’m glad you’re here for me, Liz. I don’t think any of us could do this by ourselves and come out halfway sane.” She pats the older woman lightly on the cheek. “Thank you. Now…” Cassandra glances towards Aurora’s room. “Has the little peanut started school yet, or is she still being Daddy’s girl?”

The hug remains for as long as Cassandra seems to need it. Elisabeth knows exactly the heartache and trauma and guilt and wishing that the younger woman is dealing with. "You know, I bet SESA would be happy to deliver something like that to them — a letter she left just in case anything ever happened to her," she says softly. If they won't, well… Liz is not without her own resources.

She smiles slightly. "How could I not be here?" Liz is adamant that her people are going to remain her people. Especially now.

"She hasn't, although I expect she'll be getting enrolled pretty shortly here. She's dying to go with Lili and Ricky… and now that she's seen the school, it's even more. So… probably this week I'll take her over there to register. For the moment she's still glued to Richard as much as he'll let her. And she still asks daily about everyone who isn't staying here in the building with us — she's worried that someone will get left behind if we're split up." Aurora's abandonment issues aren't going to be incapacitating, but they're going to take time to ease.

The thought of closure, for both her family and the ability to get what she’s feeling out of her system and to someone that might be able to actually do something with it is certainly buoying, and eventually Cassandra sits up, the crying done, the hugging accomplishing exactly what it needed to do, the reassurance that she’s still family, no matter what, eliciting a small nod. “Thanks again, Liz.” she finally says, wiping her face with a napkin. “It’d be impossible without all that you do for me.”

Aurora’s first day of school, and the excitement she’s feeling, must be nearly overwhelming. “How are you handling sending her off to school?” Cassandra has known how Aurora’s constant companionship had kept both her and Elisabeth sane over all that’s been said and done. If Elisabeth felt even half the attachment Cassandra felt for the little girl, which she certainly did, the thought of sending her somewhere for a day without having eyes on her that weren’t hers or Elisabeth’s could be a little nerve wracking.

“It’ll take time. Just like everything does.” Cassandra glances over towards Aurora’s room after a moment. “I’ll make it a point to come visit every day, just so she knows I’m around. I’m not going to overtly say it, of course, but hopefully that constant knowledge that we’re around, that her support system isn’t going to vanish, will help.”

"Well… she's definitely way more excited about it than I am," Elisabeth admits quietly, shoving her hand through her hair. It's the only real giveaway of her emotions. Having the little girl out of her sight or that of someone she trust with everything in her, after these past two years, is not just nerve-wracking … it's damn near terrifying. "I'm trying to make sure that my reactions don't color hers, though — she's really looking forward to school. I… might have to actually take panic meds the first couple of weeks," she confesses.

It really is an adjustment for everyone, being here.

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